Posts Tagged ‘Photography’

Fluorescence and bioluminescence

When I arrived in Lembeh this time it was just after Christmas. However, I was up for another Christmas treat. Simon here from NAD had ordered a bunch of cool stuff from Nightsea, strobe filters, filters for the lens and a cool pair of yellow spectacles, which waited for me here.  I have now tried this system during my stay and will in this blog give a short overview over what I learned from shooting it. But first of all I want to give a brief explanation over what fluorescence is, and why we can find it in nature. BTW, the complete system is available for rent here in NAD if you wish to try it out.

Fluorescent hard coral

Fluorescent hard coral

First of all, fluorescence is often confused with bio-luminescence. Bio-luminescence is found in more and more animals, and in a number of mushrooms as well. Well-known examples are those of plankton giving of light when disturbed, deep-water organisms with light organs, mushrooms glowing in the forests, fire flies and for northern areas glowworms. Bio-luminescence is the emitting of light involving a chemical reaction. Very generally, the light emitting substance is a protein called luciferin, which emits light through a chemical reaction catalyzed and oxidized by an enzyme, called luciferase. Thus, a chemical provides the energy fueling bio-luminescence, using oxygen in the process.

Bioluminescing mushrooms

Bio-luminescing mushrooms

Fluorescence, in contrast, is the emission of light where energy from one (or on rare occasions two) photon excites an electron into a higher energy orbital. After a short time, the electron will return to its former level, emitting the excess energy as light of another wavelength. No oxygen will be used in this process, as the light emittance is fuelled by the energy in the photon. Many different subjects in nature fluoresce. Despite that, we can seldom see the fluorescence, as the emitted light level is low, or in wavelengths we cannot detect. One notable exception is the red or orange anemones that we sometimes can se in much deeper water than red and orange colors from sunlight penetrate water. Despite being fairly poorly understood on a biological level, fluorescence is used in many applications, from mineralogy, oil detection, microbiology and forensic work.

Fluorescent hard coral

Fluorescent hard coral

So why do things bio-luminesce or fluoresce? Bio-luminescence in marine systems is used for at least three widely different purposes. Most of the deep-sea bio-luminescence seems to be used in order to attract prey.  Second, a number of fish living in the zone deep enough for a little light to get through, use bio-luminescence to counter shade the ventral side of them, so shading against the faint surface light can not be used by predators to find prey. Third, and maybe most speculative, it is thought that small crustaceans that bio-luminesce do so to deter small predators. Why would small predators be afraid of light? Well, if a small more or less translucent predator eats a bio-luminescing crustacean, the small predator will light up and attract the next step upwards in the food chain, increasing small predators risk risk of being killed them selves.

Fluorescent lizardfish

Fluorescent lizard fish

What is the point of fluorescence in marine systems? For a number of shallow water cnidarians, mainly the ones using zooxanthellae for their energy input, fluorescence has been suggested to be a way to control excess levels of sun exposure, limiting the damaging effects of uv-light.

Fluorescent hard coral arm

Fluorescent hard coral

Both proteins in the coral itself as well as chlorophyll in the zooxanthellae associated with the coral may fluoresce. The available evidence, however, does not really support this theory.

Fluorescent hermitcrab

Fluorescent hermit crab

A number of other animals fluoresce. Some crustaceans, such as the anemone hermit crab fluoresce. Also some bristle-worms, fish and cephalopods fluoresce. There seems to be no reason for these animals to fluoresce, so much fluorescence simply seems to be a side effect of other processes in living creatures. Whatever the cause of fluorescence it really is quite magical to see the different sources of fluorescence light up leaving the rest of the surroundings pitch black when diving. Try it out, it is an experience I am sure you will not forget!

Fluorescent anemone

Fluorescent anemone

What did I then learn from shooting this system? A to me very surprising fact is that people are not wildly enthusiastic over the results! That might of course be my results that are lacking. Furthermore, the best results, bleak as that may be, are when there are more than one fluorescent color in the picture. Third, and maybe most important is that it is a lot of fun to try it! I look very much forward to try it on coral reef sites such as in the Red sea as well as on land in rain forests. In a month or so I might get back to you with results from that.

Come See our Flourescent NADs!

My new purchase in November was some special equipment for shooting underwater fluorescence.  We have lights, visors and filter sets for you and your camera so that you can capture images of corals and some other critters, fluorescing.

The science behind it is that this light is a wavelength that we cant normally see, so by looking at night with these filters we can make it visible to the human eye.

The experience is very cool and worth giving a try on the housereef or out any of the nightdives.

We have filters available for both wide angle and macro lenses as well as the new SOLA Nightsea divelights (Inon Z240’s and Sea and Sea YS250’s are the best strobes for this application – also available for rent).

underwater flourescence with nightsea filters in Lembeh

Underwater Flourescence of hard corals in Lembeh

For a more extensive gallery, go to: Shoot-Out started

The competition started

Since today the Lembeh Shoot-Out started. Nad-Lembeh is hosting this international Underwater Photo Competition, where Photographers from Korea, Malaysia, Singapore, USA, Indonesia and Europe compete in different categories such as “Interchangeable Lens Cameras”, “Compact Cameras”, “Portfolio”, “Super-Macro” and “Unrestricted”.

To give a good example for the whole underwater photography scene, there will also so be a Special Prize for good diving behaviour – awarded to the diver with the most respect to the marine life and the best diving/buoyancy skills. It seems to be working: The judges saw very good behaviour on the first day of the competition. Also good … No flooded housings so far. The only thing that actually went wrong today: Simon had to do his first dive as a judge without fins, which had been left in the resort 😉

A big thanks goes to all the sponsors, that donated the huge prize fund and special thanks also to the sponsors that are here on site: Nauticam, Eneloop Malaysia and Cam Square.

Photo Tips: Introduction

With everyone shooting digital and huge memory cards it is quite easy these days to take 100+ photographs in a dive, especially in Lembeh.

The key to getting a good photo that you are still happy with by the time you go home is to take your time and keep using the image review button.  Here at NAD we have started to make a recommendation of take 5 photos, nice and slow, then pass the subject on to someone else if they are waiting.  Whilst they take their 5 shots you can take a look at what you shot and find the problems and try to correct this for when the subject gets passed back to you.  This was brought about by a bunch of serious photographers agreeing (our stand in blogger, Bent, was one of them) to be more civil to each other in this way, and they actually found that they ended up with better photos than had they just blasted away for several minutes.

In the old days of film we were always taught to bracket, as it may be weeks before you get to see your developed pictures – so take several and pick the good one later on.  So you would bracket your exposure, and sometimes your strobe position.  Writing down the frame number and technique on a slate, then transferring it to a book back on the boat between dives.  Fast-forward to getting your slides back a week later you would check each slide, hoping that your numbering came through and find the best one and check what you did in the book, and try to remember it.  Very tedious isn’t it?

With these digital cameras to do all that, instantly, all you have to do is press the ‘play’ button to look at it straight after you shot it.  So my question is, why are some people too lazy to do that?!

There really isn’t much excuse for saying at dinner, “my shots were all bad, I need to go back to that divesite again” – unless you had malfunctioning equipment or a malfunctioning buddy kicking up silt in all your photos.  Going back to a divesite because it was orgasmically good, is of course a completely normal excuse!

I will admit of course I have done the above myself.  Getting caught in the moment and not checking the image review and then coming back with a memory card of junk photos where a strobe was out of battery, iso was set to 6400, etc etc

There is a big difference between shots not being good enough, and shots being just plain bad; if they are plain bad, you need help, probably a course.  Either  a quick freebie refresher from me to make sure your camera is working properly (free means a quick 20 minute run through 😉 Not me looking at every out of focus picture you took), or maybe a paid course with me where I come diving with you and watch what you are doing.

If  you are reading this and nodding your head repeatedly at all the mistakes  laid out above, you might want to do a workshop with someone like Mike Veitch (he has a workshop here next year). People like Mike (I used to work with Mike on these workshop weeks in the past as well) do these intensive weeks of tuition where that’s all it is about, learning – no other distractions.  Now I have a resort and a baby so my time is more limited. So if you really want to learn a lot I totally recommend coming to the Underwater Tribe workshop in April.  Mike and Luca will just be teaching, they wont dive with their cameras, their focus will be on you.

I will be blogging about some techniques and tips over the next few weeks leading up to our Photo Competition that might be of help to some of you. They might also be useful for the experienced photographers out there as well, as a good photographer is always learning – I find myself learning to shoot all over again after a few years of being ‘dry.’  My first post will be about Bracketing, and will be coming soon…


Photo Critiquing at NAD

The Diveguides doing group critiquing at the end of a days shooting.

The Asshole Fish and his friends.

Purple Coral Crab, room-mate of Mr Assholefish

The Purple Coral Crab, (Trapezia serenei).

The last few days I have been spending several hours diving in the same place freezing my ass off looking for this stupid fish, that I have named the asshole fish.  The asshole fish lives in Seriatopora Corals from 1m to 10m depth and I hate him.
He gets his name because he has some kind of attention deficit disorder and he cant sit still.  Everytime you get him in focus he moves to a slightly different position where he ends up with a piece of the beautiful coral getting in the way of an important detail, so then you have to wait for him to come back to that spot again – or try repositioning the camera to get him in his new location.  Or as inevitably happens you decide not to reposition and wait.  And wait.  Keep waiting. Notice that he’s in a great position so its worth moving.  You move to the other side of the coral.  He promptly moves back to where you were.  Asshole fish.

You go back to your original place and decide to wait for him to move around his mini territory, hopefully returning to his sitting place that is sharply in focus whilst you’re just waiting

Mr Assholefish and Mrs Assholefisch.  Laughing from the other side of the coral.
The Redhead Coral Goby cannot sit still and is very annoying to photograph.

for him to pop in, you make a deal with him in your head ‘just come here little fishy, i’ll get the shot i want and i’ll leave you alone, we’ll all be happy then,  pleaaaaaasssssseeeee‘  Of course he jumps back into the prime position you want him in, but just for long enough to seemingly laugh… then go off again chasing his mate.   Yes there are two asshole fish in one piece of coral.  It’s taken you 30mins to realise this.

So now you have Mr Assholefish and Mrs Assholefisch (she’s German) sitting in the other side of the piece of coral, laughing at you.  You hold your nerve and wait. maybe pee a little to alleviate the boredom.

As your mind wanders you start to notice the other denziens that share the coral with Mr Assholefish and Mrs Assholefisch. There are the beautiful Coral Crabs (Trapezia sp.) which occasionally pinch Mr Asshole fish when he gets too close.  They also protect the corals from Crown of Thorns Starfish, such is their commensal relationship.  There also seemed to be some kind of snapping shrimp, who also didn’t like Mr Assholefish and Mrs Assholefisch.

As your eyes begin to strain through the viewfinder,  you look up to observe the coral as a whole – you notice 4 or 5 pairs of orange eyes looking at you.  The Assholefish family have babies.  Baby Assholefish are generally bullied by the adult fish if they go anywhere near the safety provided by the centre of the coral, so they are forced to live out on the tips, where it is coincidentally easier to take pictures.  But do not forget they are assholefish and it is in their DNA to be, well, assholefish.

Baby Assholefish!
Juvenile Redhead Coral Gobies choosing to look away at the exact moment you pull the trigger.

These juveniles will dart back and forth and generally infuriate you, this time because they are too small for he 100mm prime, but if you put the dioptre on there then you are too close and you scare them away. Grrrr!

So, if you want to see the assholefish and friends they are on most divesites, but please be careful with the corals – choose a coral head that has been damaged in the past and has a ‘window’ to the inside. Just in case you are staying elsewhere, the Assholefish normally goes by the name: Redhead Coral Goby (Page 325 in the Reef Fish ID book).

Underwater Tribe Photo Workshop

Mike Veitch and Luca Vaime along with NAD Lembeh Resort are proud to announce our First Annual “Underwater Tribe/NAD Lembeh Photo Workshop” on 15-20th April 2013.  This five night package is the perfect opportunity for you to learn photography from some of the worlds top underwater photography instructors while diving in the worlds premiere muck diving location!  Join a group of like minded photo students at NAD Lembeh Resort and participate in our “Photography from A-Z” workshop where we include everything from the basics of underwater photography up to and including “advanced tips from the pros”.  This workshop style week is perfect for everyone from beginners to experienced photographers who are looking for tips to take them to the next level.  Topics covered include:  “Understanding F-stops, Shutter Speed, and ISO”, “Using Strobes Underwater”, “Composition”, and “Creating a Workflow that Works”.  As the week progresses we will discuss: Playing with Light, Diving with a Model, and Super Macro. Each student will receive one on one photo critiquing of the days dives in order to understand what went right and what went wrong.  We will also dive “one on one” with each participant in order to help with strobe positioning and camera settings underwater.

The daily schedule will include two morning boat dives followed by lunch, a photo seminar, and an afternoon boat or shore dive.  During the evenings we will work with individual students in order to critique their images of the day and present multi media presentations after dinner.   Working closely with NADs top notch dive guides, we will find and photography the best that Lembeh Strait has to offer.

There are limited spaces available for this trip so please sign up soon for your chance to join us on this fun filled and educational trip to “the critter capital of the world, Lembeh Strait”!

For pricing details, further information, and booking please visit  or send an email to

Guest Gallery: Martin Steinmeier

Dragon Shrimp by Martin Steinmeier

With Martin Steinmeier we want to present you another Guest Gallery on our NAD-Lembeh Website. Martin is a UW Photographer from Germany and  last month he came already for his third trip to Lembeh Strait. He loves Macro, shoots a Canon EOS 500D in a Hugyfot Housing (with towel) and took some really nice shots on his recent trip.